Feather brained or feather head
Storytelling in all forms is a core parenting skill. And just like playful rough-housing, what starts as an innocent tall-tale can devolve into a justifiable need for a mommy timeout.
Often, when I am in the car with just one child, they take full advantage of my inability to make eye contact and the chance to talk without interruption from irritating siblings.
This past summer as my 8-year-old daughter, Sistafoo, and I sat in stop-and-go traffic on 520 she asked me if she could get a feather in her hair. I don’t have one, I don’t want one, but I don’t begrudge anyone else their right to wear one with peacock-like pride. However the idea of sourcing, purchasing and then dealing with a feather in my own daughter’s tangle-prone hair sounded like a hassle. So instead of saying “no” I said “Why don’t you just wait for yours to grow in?”
I calmly explained that one of the other weird things that happens to girls as they grow up, is that between the ages of 10 and 14 they grow a feather near their hairline on one side of their scalp. I told her that a few might grow a blue tinted or pinkish red plume. This all made perfect sense to her. And really, why wouldn’t it? Crazy things happen in puberty.
Telling my kids long and detailed tall-tales is not unusual. I do it all the time. What made this feathery tale different is that I must have been distracted by a shiny object because I forgot to say “just kidding” before she got out of the car. I forgot about it entirely, until I heard her telling a playmate about it.
To be fair, she was breaking a house rule by discussing a sensitive topic like puberty, city politics or the graphic surgery shows she likes to watch on Animal Planet. But I realized that my silly little tale needed to be recalled.
And then I forgot about it – again.
After school started, I waited on the playground for Sistafoo and her Wednesday play date and I noticed, with some chagrin, that her sweet little friend had a feather in her hair near her left temple. I decided to confess my story sin to nearby parents to get some advice on how and when to tell my daughter that I had allowed her live a misinformed life.
“Keep it short and sweet,” they advised. I am pretty sure they also suggested I videotape it, but maybe that was just my idea.
When Sistafoo and friend piled into the car she immediately pointed to the feather in her classmate’s hair. I pointed my camera towards them as they gamely nestled their heads together for a fun video chat.
As I stumbled through my apologetic preamble Sistafoo chimed in “A feather can grow into your hair remember? She got one, my mom did! It was pinkish-brownish, but she had it so late, when she was old, so then they had to pluck it.”
“That’s freaky!” shrieked her friend.
Guilt consumed me even as I stifled giggles.
I continued to stumble towards confession: “Here’s the problem, Sistafoo. When we were driving that day and we were on the freeway, and it was a hot day, and I love you, and you’re fun and funny, and (looking at the friend) she has a really good sense of humor and she’s a good sport … so I think she is going to be okay when I tell her that I was making that up.”
Stunned silence followed by piercing yelps; “That’s mean! That wasn’t short and that wasn’t sweet!”
Fortunately though, as the dust settled, both girls agreed that a storytelling mom was better than a “so serious mom.” But I have strict instructions to keep it to a car ride from now on. Permission to keep telling feathery tales is a huge relief to me.
I thought I was completely plucked.
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